TENS of thousands of devotees and spectators from all walks of life turned up to witness a vibrant Wesak Day float procession in George Town, Penang.
A festive mood reigned as the visitors gathered at the Malaysian Buddhist Association (MBA) premises in Burmah Road where the procession of 21 floats kicked off.
They carried stalks of flowers while some got their cameras ready to take shots of the gorgeous floats in various shapes and colours.
Some devotees also took the opportunity to bathe the statue of young Prince Siddhartha which was seen on some of the floats.
They patiently waited in a long queue to take turns for the ritual that represents cleansing and purification.
The chanting of Buddhist mantras, some coming from the floats, could be heard while the fragrance from the flowers filled the air.
The float procession, which was organised by Penang Wesak Celebrations Committee, started from the MBA premises at 6pm.
It then passed through Pangkor Road, Kelawei Road, Burmah Lane, Peel Avenue, Macalister Road, Anson Road and Madras Lane before returning to the starting point.
As the sun set on Sunday, the lights coming from the 21 floats dazzled the crowds.
Among the floats was the one from MBA which was decorated with flowers and carried a golden statue of Lord Buddha.
There was another eye-catching float from the Penang Nichiren Shu Buddhist Association in Pahang Road which featured a huge bodhi tree and a golden statue of Lord Buddha resting beneath it.
Association chairman Ang Tiang Soon said the flowers decorating the float were all real and came from Cameron Highlands, adding that the association had been participating in the procession for the past six years.
Earlier before the start of the parade, Mahindarama Buddhist Temple chief monk Ven E. Indara-tana Maha Thera led a chanting ceremony at the MBA.
In his speech, Penang Wesak Celebrations Committee 2015 chairman Datuk Dr Loh Hock Hun said the theme of this year’s celebration was ‘Unite People Harmoniously, Uphold Country, People and Buddhism’.
“Today, we usher in Wesak which is a sacred day to commemorate the 2,559th anniversary of the Thrice Blessed Day of Gautama Buddha, namely His Birth, His Supreme Enlightenment and His Attainment of Mahaparinivana,” he said.
“Millions of Buddhists celebrate this occasion to strengthen their faith and at the same time to propagate the preaching of Lord Buddha which is aimed at guiding human beings to perform good deeds, to uphold the truth and not to be selfish but to be of service to all mankind.”
Dr Loh said the objective of the annual Wesak Day celebrations was to unite and strengthen all devotees in establishing a society filled with wisdom, compassion, respect and gratitude.
He also called upon Malaysians to not focus on differences but instead look for common ground in the spirit of developing the country.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was also present at the ceremony, said the three aspects of this year’s Wesak Day celebration theme were timely and appropriate.
“The first is the importance of having an international mindset, the second is compassion and thirdly, the rule of law which can all be achieved,” he said.
The event also saw the presentation of RM13,000 from the Penang Wesak Celebrations Committee to charity.
Four organisations — Pure Lotus Hospice of Compassion, National Cancer Society and Than Hsiang Buddhist Welfare Association — received RM1,000 each while Persatuan Kebajikan Kanak-kanak Cacat Yee Ran Jing Sheh received RM10,000.
Meanwhile in Kulim, throngs of people came out to watch a procession of 11 floats.
The parade started at 7.45pm from the Kulim Buddhist Association in Jalan Tunku Putra to Jalan Raya and Taman Selasih before making a U-turn at Minat back to the association.